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How to Select Power Cords and Cord Sets

Welcome to the Interpower webcast – How to Select Power Cords and Cord Sets.

My name is Ralph Bright and I am the Vice President of Marketing at Interpower. Today I am talking with Mike Boyle, who is the Vice President of Manufacturing and Logistics. Welcome, Mike!

Thank you, Ralph!

In this webcast we would like to explore some of the aspects of selecting power cords and cord sets for global markets. With today’s need for electronic equipment, manufacturers are realizing that in order to prosper—and in some cases to survive—they may have to export to global markets. What are some aspects involved with this?

When designing for global markets, a number of factors are involved, such as being able to provide equipment that is easily adaptable to the needs of the consumer, with no product reconfiguration required. One of the main considerations is to make sure the end-user has the correct means of connecting to their local mains supply.

To begin with, will you please define a “power cord” and a “cord set”?                                                                                  
Briefly, a power cord consists of cable with a country-specific plug or connector on one end and exposed conductor wires on the other end. A cord set consists of cable with a country-specific plug on one end and an IEC 60320 connector on the other end.               

What choices should be considered when choosing the correct power cord or cord set?

The first choice to make is to identify the correct plug for the country of export. Then you need to determine the rating of the power cord or cord set and choose the correct cable. If it is a cord set, you will need to choose the correct connector.

Okay, let’s start with identifying the correct plug.

The first choice concerns the plug pattern for the country of export. As there are a number of different plug patterns used throughout the world, determining the correct one is essential. When deciding on the correct plug pattern, keep in mind that while some look similar that does not mean it is the right one for the cord used in the equipment.

For example, even though the North American and Japanese Class I plugs look similar, North American cords do not carry the Japanese approval symbol and therefore should not be exported for use in Japan. The same can be said for Japanese cords which will not carry North American approval. Another example is the similarities in appearance in the Australian, Argentinean, and Chinese plug patterns, but again there are important differences between the three and they are not interchangeable.

So once you determine the correct plug pattern for the country of export, the next step is to determine the rating when selecting a power cord or cord set. Will you explain further why this is important?

In order to choose the correct power cord or cord set, it’s crucial to know the amperage and voltage rating that is required for the equipment being exported. Higher or lower amperage can mean a different plug pattern, even in the same country. Amperage requirements also affect the cable size. Note that North America has a different voltage, amperage, and frequency compared to much of the rest of the world.


What are the considerations in choosing the cable to be used?

Again the country of export for the product matters when choosing the cable. There are differences between North American and international cable and they are not interchangeable. North American cable cannot be used in countries where international cable standards are in place and vice-versa. Just changing a plug will not work either. For example, removing a North American plug from a cord set made with North American cable and replacing it with a Continental European plug will not make the cord set acceptable for Europe.

How do you determine whether to use a cord set or a power cord? Start with the advantages and disadvantages of using a cord set.

The choice is up to the manufacturer. An advantage of a cord set using IEC 60320 components is that they can assist in making a product globally accessible. For example, an IEC 60320 connector can be attached to a detachable cord set with a country-specific plug. The connector will provide the power to the equipment by connecting with an IEC 60320 inlet in the equipment. The use of IEC 60320 components designed into a product allows the same equipment to be used in a variety of markets.

What about using a power cord instead?

Equipment may need to be designed in a way that a continuous, hard-wired power cord is necessary. Power cords do not have an IEC connector but instead the internal wires of the cord are hard-wired into terminations within the equipment, and usually supported with a cable gland, or strain relief. An advantage of using a hard-wired power cord is where there is a limited amount of panel space to place an inlet. The disadvantage is that once a power cord is connected to the equipment, it can only be exported to a country that accepts the country-specific plug at the other end.

What should be considered when choosing the length of the cord?

Cable length is a choice for the manufacturer, depending upon the application. Interpower offers standard length power cords and cord sets as well as custom lengths. When manufacturing power cords and cord sets, Interpower follows North American and international standards, along with minimum and maximum lengths per country regulations and/or standards.

Are there any application limits that need to be considered?

Yes. Cords over 50 feet in length in the United States and Canada will have the amperage rating de-rated. For international applications, de-rating of a longer than normal cord set or power cord depends upon the application and the cable used in the assembly.

Are there other considerations in regards to selecting the correct power cord or cord set?

Another point to consider is whether the equipment being exported is classified as “patient connected” and if so, then it will need to follow hospital-grade standards. Some countries have special hospital-grade standards that must be followed. For more information, a person can check our website or contact one of our Customer Service Representatives.

What is the significance of approvals?

When choosing a power cord or cord set for your equipment, it is important to ensure that the manufacturer can provide you with the necessary product safety agency approval documents.


If someone needs more information about selecting a power cord or cord set for a global market, what do you suggest?

At Interpower, we can discuss power cord and cord set needs with you through our Customer Service Representatives or a person can check the website. For the majority of the world’s plug and connector patterns, we have the ability to produce cords to our customer’s specifications because we manufacture many of our own power cords and cord sets in the United States, in Iowa. That means we can offer a choice in the length of cable and angle of the connector, as well as customer-specific labeling and packaging.

Thank you, Mike, for all of this information.

At Interpower, we have no minimum orders and carry over 4 million parts in stock. We offer same day shipments on in-stock products and have a 1-week U.S. manufacturing lead-time on most non-stock products.

Thank you for joining us today.